Letter: Commentary on local golf history not up to par
Updated 12:01 pm, Friday, April 10, 2015
Your "How I See It" column, March 27, is a perfect example of the old adage, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Ron Blumenfeld's assessment of private country club golf beginnings borders on a rather snarky commentary. A bit more research on his part into the actual history of the subject would have yielded more interesting facts and informative copy.
Despite our town's recent 375th anniversary ballyhoo, 19th century history of Bridgeport and New York manufacturing leaders and the benevolent results of their corporate achievement for Fairfield remains, if anything, still under examined, under appreciated and little understood by local media and institutions. Fairfield, at this time, was predominantly agricultural, isolated and town coffers could barely accommodate educational requirements and could not even think about the costs of cultural and recreational assets that we all take for granted and squabble about at budget time today.
The Warner and the Jennings families, as well as the Bedfords, Wheelers, Wakemans and others, filled this public need vacuum and personally underwrote civic organizations, libraries, recreation and charitable facilities as sound resources which now make our town remarkably desirable as a place to live.
The Warner family fortune was a financial tide rise that led to the creation of area municipal utilities. When Ira DeVer Warner, Sr., built his estate, "Restmore," in Southport, in 1911, his effort introduced water, gas and later, electric lines, to benefit all surrounding residents. He saw to it that his company and estate provided, first, employment, housing and social services for the community.
At Brooklawn, Dr. Warner's leadership and interest in golf was only part of an ascending sport across the country. He and co-founders, including Archer C. Wheeler, promoted championship golf on a professionally designed course which many could share and did according to their abilities. It should be noted that he spent much of his tragically brief retirement years on the links with his close friend, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., here, at Pocantico Hills and in Florida.
As a physician, Dr. Warner practiced what he preached with his products. He neither smoked nor drank and always retired very early, maintaining, "every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two following."
Similarly, there is far more to the story of Oliver G. Jennings and the Country Club of Fairfield establishment on Sasco Point. In 1915, during the nation's lead up to entering World War I, the federal government mandated better area infrastructure development for mobilization. Southport Harbor had been (and still is) a federal waterway since 1837. It badly needed navigable basin expansion and dredging. Oliver Jennings, together with other village and point residents, my grandfather, Clarence Baker Sturges among them, knew this and incorporated the club on farm land purchased from the Meeker and Perry families. Their additional filling in of the old harbor's marshy East Neck into a golf course was a practical engineering solution offered to put the considerable channel dredging spoil from the harbor to good use.
This era's history is one of philanthropic public good and forward vision of individuals, not just their self interest and exclusivity. In this age of internet snap assumptions, it needs detailed and balanced illumination for a new generation's accurate awareness.